Every June 20 I think of my childhood best friend Ruth. I don't have all of my friends' birthdays memorized but this one is ingrained.
Outside of family, Ruth has probably known me the longest. We easily recall the day we first met. We were in kindergarten; her mom was late picking her up from the AM class and my mom dropped me off early for PM. We stood near the door and said hi. I don't remember whether there was time to play before she left.
We were in different first grade classes so our friendship didn't officially begin until second grade. My brother and her sister were in the same kindergarten class and we lived near each other. Our friendship was meant to be. Both book nerds, we loved playing Little House on the Prairie in Ruth's backyard and going to the library. We made amazing mud pies, as well as bricks. Our pioneer-like endeavors were quite impressive.
Eventually, Ruth, Alyce, Matt, and I started walking to school together. The mile or so walk cemented our friendship even further. Unless our backs were strained by the weight of our books. Memories of playing dress up, watching MASH and Saturday morning cartoons, sewing projects, spelling bees, drizzling honey on hot biscuits swirl through my head.
How many sleepovers did we spend whispering and giggling in the dark? How many secrets shared and dreams uttered? Even so, some things were not discussed, too raw, too fresh.
We graduated from our small Christian grammar school and transitioned to the same public high school. I cannot express my gratitude to have a friend along for that particular ride. We made other friends in high school but the bond endured. We might not have been best friends any more but it was not a calculated change, more a drifting as we each honed separate interests.
The last sleepover I can remember happened in her college dorm room. This was a step up from pull out couches and twin beds. We laughed and whispered as usual, making sense of how far we'd come and processing whatever we faced at that time. Ruth fell asleep first, as she always did. And when my eyes finally closed, it was with gratitude for my dear childhood friend.
It's hard to believe we graduated college ten years ago. Even harder to believe I still talk to a girl I first met when we were 5 years old. The magic of social media keeps us up to date now.
We rarely see each other, she having lived out of state since college graduation. Every once in awhile, we manage to be in the same place at the same time. When the stars align, I appreciate her all the more. We talk about the things we didn't have words for back then. We talk about how we're different than we'd imagined- but in a good way. We reminisce.
There is so much about our formative years only Ruth understands. What it was like to attend the grammar school, what spring time meant in 6th grade, Battle of the Books, riding the bus, the perks and pitfalls of growing up in Wheaton.
I don't know either of us envisioned back then the lives we've made for ourselves. Surely, we're a new and improved version of those childhood dreams. Maybe that's what has kept us in each other's lives all this time.
My friendship with Ruth is comprised of nostalgia, our shared childhood, and an appreciation of the women we've grown to be. I wouldn't trade it for anything.
I'm in awe of all you've accomplished so far, Ruth. You are smart, confident, and determined. I cannot wait to see what happens next! Happy birthday to my ol' pal Rutebaga.
Do you have any childhood friends?